Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Girl Who Cried, "Toad!"

The real denizens of the pasture
Photo by:  Ravedave

I was checking the herd in the north pasture.
My favorite assignment.
You pointed the horse in the right direction and sat back for the ride.
Occasionally you would be required to come out your reverie long enough to glance around and take stock (literally).
The cows would stare at you for a moment, glance towards their calves for reassurance, then drop their heads and continue grazing.
Then you could sink back into your own thoughts.
Tough job.
The most peaceful work on the planet.
Except that this time, there were more critters in the pasture than I had anticipated.
But I am getting ahead of myself . . .
It had been a wet year.
Almost unheard of in very arid Southern Alberta, but very much appreciated.
Things were green and growing.
There were even small ponds of water standing about. Something I had never seen.
I started up the east side of the pasture, heading north.
All was well.
I turned west at the northern fence and continued on.
Everything remained quiet.
Reaching the western boundary, I turned south.
Halfway along the western fence, my horse stopped.
Okay, this was different.
I emerged from my thoughts long enough to frown at her and give her a nudge.
She stayed where she was.
Huh. Weird.
Maybe my goofball ex-racehorse had seen something.
It would take a miracle, but I believed in miracles.
I decided to look around.
Just to my left was a small hill, and beneath it, a basin, hardly more than a dimple, which had, until today, been filled with fresh, clean water.
Water that had . . . too quickly . . . disappeared.
Now only mud remained.
And something more. Something that was . . . moving.
I nudged my horse again.
But she was staring at that mud and "had no intention of going any closer, thank you."
I slid off her and, looping the reins around my arm, proceeded forward on foot.
My horse let the reins play out as far as she could, then reluctantly followed.
I stopped a few feet from the water's edge.
Because that was as far as I could go without stepping on something.
A tiny toad.
Because there were dozens, maybe hundreds of them, crawling over each other and milling about.
In a place that, in a normal year, was miles from any water.
And where, I should point out, we had never, ever seen them before.
Where could they have come from?
And, more importantly, how could I get one home?
I glanced at my still-nervous horse and my 'saddlebag-less' riding pad.
Nothing there that would hold them.
I had pockets.
Hmm. Worked for Dennis the Menace.
On TV.
I picked one up and studied his small, sturdily-built body.
No. I might squish him.
I set him down.
I watched them for some time, moving about, doing their little 'toady' things.
It was fascinating.
But finally, I had to move on.
Regretfully, I mounted up and let my horse make a wide detour around the writhing mass of little bodies.
By the time I was able to drag my father out to see them the next day, the mud had dried up.
And my little friends had disappeared as if they had never existed.
I glanced around.
Surely this was the spot?
But there wasn't a living thing to be seen.
Certainly nothing moved.
Where could they have gone?
Dad stared at the spot.
Then he looked at me.
And shook his head.
He believed me. I know he did.
I'm almost sure he did.
Okay, well, it wouldn't have been the first time I had told a 'big windy'.
But this time, I was telling the truth.
We never saw them again.
They disappeared as completely as if they had never existed.
Maybe they hadn't.
But if that's true, I had held, for a short time, a bit of my imagination in my hand.
It tickled.


  1. After reading this, I think you should have titled it, "The Girl Who Cried Toad."

    Just a suggestion. :)

  2. I wonder where they would all go? My kids would have loved to jump in and catch all the toads.

  3. It's funny I read this, because I just read through my journal that I kept as a child, and discovered that I used to have 160 my backyard. Love the memories.

    PS: I like stumbling upon a fellow Mormon blogger. :)


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